Monday, December 22, 2008

Barack Obama, Most Powerful Person of the Year

On the heels of being named Time's "Person of the Year," Barack Obama has been named Newsweek's most powerful member of the global elite: "The Story of Power":

The beginning of 2009, the last year of the first decade of the 21st century, is a good time to consider the nature of power, and of the powerful, because the world is being reordered in so many ways—broadly by what my colleague Fareed Zakaria calls "the rise of the rest," the emergence of powers such as India, China and Brazil, and specifically by the global recession. The cultural, political and economic consequences of the financial meltdown cannot be overestimated. Unthinking trust in unfettered markets has evaporated, and the concern appears to be more than a temporary fit of worry that will pass when things start to get better. The demise of titans on Wall Street has elevated bureaucrats and politicians in Washington and Beijing and Brussels. And there is one politician in particular whose exercise of power will affect all of us for years to come: the president-elect, whose victory in November and transition—accompanied by the virtual disappearance of President Bush—have marked a resurgence of confidence in America. A senior European diplomat recently marveled to me about the American capacity to change course with rapidity and apparent ease: the shift from Bush to Obama —from the scion of one of America's noblest families to the child of a brief marriage between a young Kansan and a Kenyan academic, who proceeded to see his son exactly once—was simply astonishing ....

In Latin the word for power is imperium, which is largely evocative of the state, and we tend to think of power in political terms—that is, in terms of our relation to one another in the public sphere (power dynamics within families are usually confined to the private sphere, except when those families play political roles—see the Kennedys, the Bushes and the Clintons). Very roughly, political power in America has moved from being the monopoly of the landed elite from the 18th-century Revolutionary era through the 19th-century Age of Jackson, when the suffrage was broadened to white men beyond the traditional gentry. In the 20th century, women and, at long last, African-Americans were included in the mainstream. Now, in the 21st century, the world is turning over yet again. The political energy in the country is being harnessed by a younger and more diverse group than it has been in ages past. This does not mean the millennium is at hand, but it does mean that the face of power is changing.
Read the whole thing here.

Interestingly, it's frankly indisputable that Barack Obama's the most powerful person in the world. Obama will be, of course, the President of the United States, and for all the talk of America's relative interanational decline, it goes without saying that Obama wouldn't be powerful at all if he wasn't representing the American people and the American political system, which remains the light and power of freedom and morality in the conscience of humankind.

Here's Newsweek's top 50 of the world's most powerful people:

1: Barack Obama
2: Hu Jintao
3: Nicolas Sarkozy
4-5-6: Economic Triumvirate
7: Gordon Brown
8: Angela Merkel
9: Vladimir Putin
10: Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
11: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
12: Kim Jong Il
13-14: The Clintons
15: Timothy Geithner
16: Gen. David Petraeus
17: Sonia Gandhi
18: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
19: Warren Buffett
20: Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
21: Nuri al-Maliki
22-23: The Philanthropists
24: Nancy Pelosi
25: Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
26: Mike Duke
27: Rahm Emanuel
28: Eric Schmidt
29: Jamie Dimon
30-31: Friends of Barack
32: Dominique Strauss-Kahn
33: Rex Tillerson
34: Steve Jobs
35: John Lasseter
36: Michael Bloomberg
37: Pope Benedict XVI
38: Katsuaki Watanabe
39: Rupert Murdoch
40: Jeff Bezos
41: Shahrukh Khan
42: Osama bin Laden
43: Hassan Nasrallah
44: Dr. Margaret Chan
45: Carlos Slim Helú
46: The Dalai Lama
47: Oprah Winfrey
48: Amr Khaled
49: E. A. Adeboye
50: Jim Rogers
It's personally bothersome that Newsweek's editors would "honor" Osama bin Laden as among the world's most powerful people. Osama's a has-been who's currently nowhere to be found.

But note too how Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, makes the cut at #11, and Hassan Nasrallah ranks #43. There's a little "axis of evil rankings" for you.

Maybe New Yorker or some other pop culture rag will come out with a "Moral Relativism Rankings of the Year."

6 comments:

El Jefe Maximo said...

The first (named) person arguibly conservative is General Petraeus at No. 16. In general, recognizably conservative figures are pretty absent. Probably less a product of Newsweek's bias than the lamentable state of politics and the culture generally.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks El Jefe!

Dana said...

Except, of course, that Barack Hussein Obama is not the President of the United States. It's apparent that he will be president in another month, but he isn't president now. The most powerful person in the world right now is George W Bush.

Donald Douglas said...

That's true, to an extent, Dana. Bush is a lame duck, floundering in the polls. He has little political capital. He could launch an air raid on Iran's nuclear development facilities, but it's not the same as the expectation of power that folks have of Obama.

Grace Explosion said...

Well, Donald, maybe our names will make the list in 2009. :)

I didn't see "God" on the list. Oversight??

;)

Grace.

Donald Douglas said...

Not an oversight, Grace. It's strange, the popular culture we have.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.